Dangers Of Non-Christocentric Preaching: A Displaced Gospel

Preaching bare moral truths (moralisms) often drives people away from fellowship with Christ.

When ethical and moral imperatives are proclaimed as sufficient, even abstracted from Jesus, the result is a crossless Christianity in which the central message becomes an exhortation to live according to God’s rules. Hearers who possess a seared conscience may develop an attitude of self-righteousness: according to their judgment they are adequately living by God’s rules. Faithful believers with tender consciences may despair because they know that they constantly fall short of God’s standard.

 

Satan doesn’t mind expository preaching as long as it misses the main point of God’s word; in fact, Satan himself engages in a form of expository preaching and encourages that form of biblical exposition to be practiced as a means of his deception. Russell Moore writes,

Throughout the Old Testament, he preaches peace—just like the angels of Bethlehem do—except he does so when there is no peace. He points people to the particulars of worship commanded by God—sacrifices and offerings and feast days—just without the preeminent mandates of love, justice, and mercy. Satan even preaches to God—about the proper motives needed for godly discipleship on the part of God’s servants. In the New Testament, the satanic deception leads the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees to pore endlessly over biblical texts, just missing the point of Jesus Christ therein. They come to conclusions that have partially biblical foundations—the devil’s messages are always expository; they just intentionally avoid Jesus.”1

Consider some of the dangers of non-Christocentric expository sermons:

A Displaced Gospel

Contemporary evangelical preachers who affirm expository preaching do not intentionally avoid Jesus in preaching, but some accepted approaches to expository preaching methodologically eclipse him in the name of honoring the text. For instance, Walter C. Kaiser rejects the possibility of a text’s possessing a canonical sensus plenior (fuller meaning) and argues that interpreting the meaning of every text in light of the fullness of New Testament revelation is “wrongheaded historically, logically, and biblically.”2 The implications of this position for preaching are monumental. Thomas R. Schreiner asserts, “If we only preach antecedent theology, we will not accurately divide the word of truth, nor will we bring the Lord’s message to the people of our day.”3

The consequences are compounded in light of the fact that, at least in some evangelical circles, “the Kaiser method” has taken on the status of gatekeeper of conservative orthodoxy in biblical interpretation.4

Many preachers cannot articulate the theoretical basis of Kaiser’s analogy of antecedent Scripture or his commitment to the single intention of the human author. Nevertheless, they enact this pattern each week. One may plausibly attribute this phenomenon to a mimesis of the theory and techniques presented during their academic training. Millard J. Erickson writes,

“Evangelical hermeneutics of the past quarter-century has placed a great deal of emphasis on the concept of authorial intent. This has been displayed in a number of ways, but one of the clearest and most direct has been the extensive utilization of the thought and writings of E.D. Hirsch, Jr. in evangelical hermeneutics courses. It is also evident in the writings of evangelical teachers of hermeneutics, who insist that a given passage of Scripture has only one meaning, and that this meaning is the meaning intended by the human author. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., has been the most consistent and insistent in advocating this idea, but others have also sought to make this case persuasively.”5

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